50th Anniversary History Series
To mark the 50th Anniversary of the PPBSO Ottawa Branch, we are proud to launch a history series that will take readers through the past half century of piping and drumming history in this region.
We are grateful to Past President Graeme Ogilvie for spearheading this effort. Over the next several months, we will share biographies, photos, stories and more. All of this material will have a permanent home on the Ottawa Branch website.
Installment #2: Archie Cairns
Our many thanks to Fiona Cairns, Brian Williamson, and Gilbert Young for their contributions to this article.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Archie MacNeil Cairns began piping at the age of nine with his father, Pipe Major John Knox Cairns of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, as his teacher. As well as founding the Ottawa Branch of the PPBSO in January 1971, he co-founded the City of Ottawa Highland Games, assisted by P/M Jack Coghill of the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa. He later conceived the Inter-Provincial Championships for Piping, Drumming, Pipe Bands and Highland Dancing, which although lasted only four years for the pipers, drummers, and bands, have continued annually to this day for highland dancing. P/M Cairns was also instrumental in the establishment of the Gold Medal in Canada for piobaireachd.
“On 15 Feb 1965, on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, the new Canadian Flag was raised at noon for the first time. Many may not know that it was played from the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings to the stage by one Piper and one Snare Drummer, namely Pipe Major AM Cairns and WO JB Kerr, both wearing the RCAF tartan.”